NASA Test Flights Affirm Viability of Biofuel-Powered Commercial Jets

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In recent test flights, NASA researchers have confirmed that commercial airliners can safely fly on an alternative jet fuel blend and that under some conditions the biofuel mix produced 30 percent fewer emissions than typical jet fuel.

After flying DC-8 aircraft using a biofuel blend containing 50 percent camelina plant oil, scientists from Langley Research Center in Virginia say they observed no noticeable difference in the jets’ engine performance. And specially equipped planes that measured the exhaust emissions from the jets’ contrails found the biofuel blend produced fewer emissions, according to NASA.

“In terms of these fuels being acceptable for use in commercial aircraft, they’re quite acceptable,” Bruce Anderson, a senior research scientist at Langley Research Center, told the Associated Press. “But we’re still digging into the data.” But while camelina plant oil might eventually emerge as an attractive biofuel source, since it can be grown in arid regions, researchers noted that it is currently cost-prohibitive. Currently, Anderson said, camelina oil costs about $18 per gallon, compared to $4 per gallon for typical jet fuel.

Article appearing courtesy Yale Environment 360.

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